Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Plaintiff had not articulated a legally viable cause of action and denied any requests made for injunctive relief, holding that there was no reversible error in the judgment.Plaintiff brought this complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief concerning Governor Ralph S. Northam's order to the Department of General Services to remove the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia from Commonwealth property. The circuit court dismissed the claims, holding that Plaintiff failed to state a claim that he possessed the legal right to prohibit the Commonwealth from moving the monument. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's claim with prejudice. View "Gregory v. Northam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Governor Ralph S. Northam's order to remove the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia from property owned by the Commonwealth was not improper or unlawful, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were without merit.At issue in this case was whether language in an 1890 deed, signed by the then Governor of Virginia, and an 1889 joint resolution of the General Assembly requesting and authorizing the Governor to sign the deed, prohibited Governor Northam from ordering the removal of the state-owned Lee Monument from state-owned property. The circuit court found that the language in the deed created restrictive covenants but that those restrictive covenants were unenforceable and that the Governor's actions seeking to remove the Lee Monument did not contradict public policy or violate the Virginia Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the the circuit court did not err. View "Taylor v. Northam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellants' challenges to certain amendments to the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance and the imposition of a Transient Occupancy Tax, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellants owned or possessed homes within Fairfax County. In 2018, the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County amended the Zoning Ordinance (the STL Amendment) redefining a dwelling and adding definitions for "transient occupancy" and "short-term lodging." The Board also amended the County Code to impose a transient occupancy tax of two percent of the cost of the short-term lodging (the TOT Amendment). Appellants brought a declaratory judgment action challenging the validity of the STL Amendment and the TOT Amendment. The trial court dismissed Appellants' claims with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing Appellants' challenges to the amendments. View "Norton v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that the Historic Alexandria Foundation lacked standing to pursue the claims asserted in this case, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's judgment.Vowell, LLC filed applications to obtain certain permits for the renovation of property located in the Old and Historic District of the City of Alexandria. The Old and Historic Alexandria District Board of Architectural Review (the BAR) approved Vowell's applications, and the City Council affirmed the BAR's decision. The Foundation appealed the City's Council decision. The circuit court dismissed the matter with prejudice, concluding that the petition did not establish that the Foundation was an aggrieved party with standing to pursue the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Foundation lacked standing because the allegations of the petition failed to establish that the Foundation suffered particularized harm that differed from that suffered by the public in general. View "Historic Alexandria Foundation v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court and set aside the award of the condemnation commissioners to the Helmick Family Farm, LLC for a taking of slightly more than two acres of land along with some easements, holding that the reasonable probability of rezoning of property taken through condemnation may be relevant to the property's fair market value and that Helmick presented sufficient concrete facts to warrant submission of the question of reasonable probability of rezoning to a jury.On appeal, Helmick argued that exclusion of certain evidence prevented the commissioners from considering probative evidence concerning the fair market value of the land at issue. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) ample authority supports the admissibility of evidence that the property taken has a reasonable probability of rezoning; (2) nothing in prior cases forecloses the admissibility of such evidence; (3) there are certain parameters concerning such evidence; and (4) Helmick presented sufficient concrete facts to warrant submission of the question of reasonable probability of rezoning to a jury. View "Helmick Family Farm v. Commissioner of Highways" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling in favor of Henrico County and concluding that HHHHunt did not have a vested right to the continuation of Dominion Club Drive under Va. Code 15.2-2261 and that the County could rely on the abandonment provisions of Title 33.2 of the Code to eliminate the extension of Dominion Club Drive, holding that the circuit court did not err.HHHunt wished to extend Dominion Club Drive into Hanover County so that it might more profitably develop its properties in Hanover County. Henrico County and residents of the Wyndham development in Henrico County opposed extending the road. The County Board of Supervisors removed a portion of Dominion Club Drive from the County's major thoroughfare plan and voted to abandon a portion of the road pursuant to the abandonment provisions found in Title 33.2, effectively precluding HHHunt from extending the road into Hanover County. The circuit court sustained the Board's decisions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board's decision was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Loch Levan Land v. Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment dismissing Bragg Hill Corporation's claims against the City of Fredericksburg, holding that the rezoning of property by a city ordinance upon annexation of the property by the city was not void ab initio and did not violate the procedural due process rights of Bragg Hill, the property owner.In the early 1970s the Spotsylvania Planning Commission approved a master plan submitted by Bragg Hill. Bragg Hill built several sections of a townhouse project on the property. The City of Fredericksburg later annexed Bragg Hill's property. The annexed property was zoned into the City's R-1 zoning classification, which did not permit the development of townhouses. Bragg Hill unsuccessfully requested a determination that it had a vested right to develop the property zoned R-1 according to the master plan. The property was later rezoned to an R-2 zoning classification. Bragg Hill then brought this action against the City. The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the change in the zoning of the property upon annexation was authorized; (2) the issue of whether Bragg Hill had a vested right was previously decided; and (3) Bragg Hill was not deprived of any property interest as a result of the rezoning, and its procedural due process rights were not violated. View "Bragg Hill Corp. v. City of Fredericksburg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court, reinstated the determination of the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), and entered final judgment for the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, holding that the circuit court erred when it held that Va. Code 15.2-2307(D) creates a vested right to an originally illegal use of a building or structure after the owner has paid taxes to the locality for that building or structure for fifteen years or more.Defendants owned real property located in McLean, Virginia. The Fairfax County Zoning Administrator issued a notice of violation (NOV) to Defendants regarding the property because a detached garage and garden house locate on the property had been converted to dwelling, resulting in three complete and separate dwellings on the property. Defendants appealed the NOV to the BZA, arguing that the garage and garden house were grandfathered. The BZA concluded that Defendants were in violation of the relevant ordinance. The circuit court reversed, holding that the nonconforming structures were protected under section 15.2-2307(D)(iii). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in holding that 15.2-2307(D) protected Defendants’ illegal use of their garden house and garage. View "Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County v. Cohn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Petitioner filed her petition for writs of mandamus and prohibition against the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County in violation of Va. Code 8.01-271.1 and that an appropriate sanction against Petitioner is the costs and attorney’s fees incurred by Loudoun County in defending against this petition.Invoking the Court’s original jurisdiction, Petitioner filed a petition for writs of mandamus and prohibition against the County. The Court dismissed the petition and issued a rule to show cause why the Court should not impose sanctions against her due to her string of frivolous lawsuits relating to Petitioner’s challenges to Loudoun County’s authority over the property of the former Town of Waterford, an unincorporated municipal entity. The Supreme Court entered judgment in favor of the County in the amount of $4,377. View "Madison v. Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the circuit court did not err when it found that an automobile graveyard was a lawful nonconforming use because the use began prior to the enactment of the county’s zoning ordinances and had not been discontinued.The Acting Zoning Administrator of Price William County determined that the use of one parcel as an automobile graveyard was not a lawful nonconforming use. The Prince William County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) upheld the Administrator’s denial of the non-conforming use verification for the parcel. The circuit court reversed the BZA’s decision, finding that the use of the parcel as an automobile salvage business operation predated the zoning ordinances of Prince William County and that the pre-existing lawful nonconforming use was never abandoned or discontinued. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lawful nonconforming use of the parcel as an automobile graveyard was not terminated by discontinuance of the use. View "Prince William Board of County Supervisors v. Archie" on Justia Law